Now on to the second thing I need you to do if you want wild Snake River salmonids to recover sometime before the year 2118. Recently, the House of Representatives or the House of those representing their pocket liners passed an unfortunate bill that is now headed to the US Senate, which essentially protects the four lower Snake River dams, ends spill, and stops you from essentially going to court in the future because you want to protect wild salmonids. So, I need you to relay to your United States senators, whoever they may be, that recent blog post of mine about the 12 reasons to breach the lower Snake River dams.
Now onto why I am writing you today. Here's the quote...
"The first qualitative goal for natural production fish, according to Leonard, is to have all salmon and steelhead delisted within 100 years."
That quote comes from what happened in Missoula last month when "Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee reviewed draft vision statement, guiding principles and qualitative goals developed over the past year and a half by the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force."
So, the powers that be, think that 100 years is appropriate for salmon recovery. Let that sink in. Soak that up for a while. I mean, why not, they think 100 years. Why not? Imagine Woodrow Wilson, he was president 100 years ago, imagine him saying something to the crowd about in 100 years time we'll end the War to End all Wars. Seriously, is the committee a bunch of procrastinators or do they lack the courage to speak truth to power and point out those deadbeat dams are only helping the small, select few who line the pockets of certain members of the U.S. House of Representatives?
100 years, well, unless there is some miracle pill, I won't be around to call them on this one.
Let's take a look at the numbers they shared, sharing is caring.
"Historical abundance of chinook salmon (spring, summer and fall runs combined) was between 3.75 million (2015 Independent Scientific Advisory Board estimate) to 9.2 million (the high end of a 1996 Council estimate). Current abundance based on a 10-year average (2008-17) is 1,120,300 with 58 percent of those of hatchery origin."
Let's do some math, so the picture is accurate. Wild chinook, those are the only fish that matter if you are scoring at home, 42 percent of 1,120,300 fish is 470,526 wild or natural (to be more accurate) chinook. Moving on to the next category...
"For sockeye historical abundance was 2.25 million (ISAB) to 2.6 million (Council). Current abundance is 328,500 (10 percent hatchery)."
I believe this number is essentially the Columbia River sockeye that don't turn east to the Idaho highlands. Comment section below to correct me if I am wrong. Today we have from this number 328,500 minus 10 percent or 32,850 for a grand total of 295,650 sockeye that go back to mostly central Washington that are of the wild/natural variety.
Moving on to those pesky Snake River Sockeye...
"Endangered Snake River sockeye salmon: current abundance = 134; low = 2,500; medium = 5,750; high = 9,000, which is 6 percent of the historic high abundance."
Let me update that to say that 272 had passed Lower Granite Dam by now, but the run is almost over.
Those are target goals, but instructive, none-the-less...In 100 years, they hope to have 9,000 sockeye returning to Red Fish Lake, which is is 45,000 short of the high historic abundance. Wouldn't that be great! If only they'd survive the next 100 years to get there. How many years are sockeye going belly up from that new, very expensive hatchery? Have they solved that hard water problem?
"Threatened Snake River spring/summer chinook: current abundance = 10,000; low = 31,750; medium = 79,375; high = 127,000, which is 19 percent of the historic high abundance. Harvest rate is 11.6 percent. That rises to 24 percent for the medium and 35 percent if the high goal is met."
I am rolling my eyes at this. I honestly believe you should be too. And here is why...
The point is, setting a goal a century into the future is no goal at all. That's punting to your great, great grand kids. Serious question, considering diminishing returns and great expense and how our society is moving away from outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting, will Americans five generations from today have enough appreciation for wild salmonids that have largely been removed from the landscape for what will be about 10 generations by then to actually continue the work of restoring them? I seriously doubt it. The conservation movement that began in the 19th century and peaked with the environmental movement successes of the late 60s and 70s is unfortunately in decline. The laws are being carved up and made more and more meaningless everyday as this country's courts move further and further to the right side of the political spectrum.
The Corps of Engineers, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Bureau of Reclamation have no intent on saving the wild salmonids of the Snake River Basin. I've said this for years, I believe the so-called action agencies are simply playing out the clock on wild salmonids. Yes, they want you to think they care a great deal about wild salmonids and they are willing, quite willing, to spend your money (be that tax money or rate payer money) on failed mitigation.
The Corps won't even take responsibility for where their dams begin killing off salmonids. I've asked, they didn't consider barging from where the slackwater begins on the Snake River between Asotin, Washington and Lewiston, Idaho or above the paper mill on the Clearwater River in Lewiston, Idaho. They didn't take that hard look required by NEPA to consider where their mortality begins. NO! They just want to tell you a wonderful story about the survival of outmigrating juvenile fish from one side of the concrete to the other at their projects. But anyone who has studied the demise of the wild salmonids during the dam age, knows that the mortality begins upstream, and is equal or greater than the mortality, which is quite great at each project.
So, when the Corps tells you they have 97 percent survival at one of their projects, understand, please understand, they are only talking about survival from one side of the concrete at that dam to the other side of the concrete at that dam. So, 100 fish arrive upstream of Lower Granite Dam, 97 fish survive. Now, we have 97 fish arrive at Little Goose Dam, and 94 fish survive. Now we have 94 fish arrive at Lower Monumental Dam and 91 fish survive. Now we have 91 fish arrive at Ice Harbor Dam and 88 (maybe 89) fish survive. Then we have 88 fish arrive at McNary Dam and 85 (maybe 86) survive. Now we have 85 fish arrive at John Day Dam amd 83 fish survive. Now we have 83 fish arrive at The Dalles Dam, and 80 (maybe 81) fish survive. Then we have 80 fish arrive at Bonneville Dam and 78 fish survive. We just lost 22 percent of the fish at the projects. But wait, there's more to the story because survival of outmigrating juvenile chinook, outmigrating steelhead, outmigrating sockeye through the hydrosystem presents a much different picture.
Those numbers most recently said the dams were killing 52 percent of steelhead and chinook and 50 percent of sockeye. Though, previous numbers on that were slightly varied for steelhead and chinook and quite different for sockeye, those numbers were 50 percent of steelhead killed by dams when going to the ocean and 49.5 percent of chinook killed going to sea, and 60.8 percent of sockeye killed by the dams on their way to sea. Those dam mortality rates do not reflect other mortality unattributible to the dams. In other words, even more fish die from other more natural causes during migrating to the sea, which adds to those depressing percentages above.
Anyway, if you've got 100 years to spare, Snake River salmonids might be delisted. Ain't that grand! There are faster ways and that would be through breaching the four lower Snake River dams, which 87 percent of fisheries biologists say is the best way we could recover wild salmonids of the Snake River Basin. Or we could wait 100 years, as we lose 87 cents on the dollar on these dams every year while shipping is negligent on the lower Snake River and maybe the salmonids will be delisted. Nobody reading this blog today will be around then to complain if they once again miss their mark.
In all honesty, does anyone out there, considering the political arc of this country, believe for a second that the Endangered Species Act will be intact in 100 years? Also, does anyone believe that salmon will miraculously restore themselves when we refuse to face the actual, critical problem that imperils them to begin with, and that is our failure to address our dam problem that is killing off our wild salmon by destroying their critical migratory habitat? 100 years? In the words of John McEnroe...
"YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!?!"